Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Great Biblical Depth of the Catholic Mass

I have a large Missal, which contains many comments on what goes on at a Catholic Mass, as well as many prayers to aid one's spiritual life.

Because so many people are ignorant of what goes on in the Mass, both inside and outside the Catholic world, I thought it would be helpful to tell in order what happens in the order of the Mass. I'll mainly be copying what's in my book, but I'll supplement it with my own comments.

Of course, there are varieties of religious expression even within the Catholic Church, so when I can comment on how these variations manifest themselves in places like Eastern Catholic and Latin liturgies, I'll try my best. Because the Mass is divided into two sections, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I'll break up these posts into 4 sections, where each section is divided into two halves.

When I have comments, they will be shown in a unique font.

Mass begins with a bell that rings or a song that is song. This is what the notes in my Missal state.

Entrance Song

After the people have assembled, the priest and the ministers go to the altar while the entrance song is being sung. When the priest comes to the altar, he makes the customary reverence with the ministers, kisses the altar, and (if incense is used) incenses it. Then, with the ministers, he goes to the chair.


After the entrance song, the priest and the faithful remain standing and make the sign of the cross, as the priest says:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The people answer:


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

The people answer:

And also with you.

In the greeting we come together and are summoned to prepare ourselves to worship the Lord, as the priest and those who come towards the altar reverently come to the altar, where the blessed Eucharist is celebrated. As the song ends, the Mass is about to begin. It technically begins as the priest begins by greeting us in the name of the Holy Trinity. In response to this invocation on God's holy name, we make the sign of the cross. Why do this? Is this mere superstition? No, it is an ancient symbol that should bring our hearts to unite the reality that Christ died for us with our own life. We are to take up our cross and follow Christ, and by making this sign we are saying that His cross is also our cross. The inner reality of the truth of the Trinity and the Cross of Christ has a verbal acknowledgment, and an outer manifestation. Our response of "Amen" brings us to
the greeting which follows the invocation on the trinity is nearly a word for word phrasing of most of the Pauline epistles. Again, the Scriptures are brought to our minds as this 21st century man is bringing our hearts to the 1st century with his greeting.
When this Biblical prayer that God be with us is brought to our ears, we respond by saying "And also with you." We echo back the hope that God's blessings be upon the priest who serves us.

As the Mass progresses, the next phase after the Greeting is entered.

Pentitential Rite
After the introduction to the day's Mass, the priest invites the people to recall their sins and to repent of them in silence. He may use these or similar words:

Coming together as God's family, with confidence let us ask the Father's forgiveness, for he isfull of gentleness and compassion.

You were sent to heal the contrite: Lord, have mercy.
The people answer:
Lord have mercy.

You came to call sinners: Christ, have mercy.
The people answer:
Christ have mercy.

You plead for us at the right hand of the Father: Lord, have mercy.
The people answer:
Lord have mercy.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.


During this penitential act, which sometimes includes a longer prayer and would then call on the Lord for mercy often in Greek (in a Latin Mass this would be the only time Greek was regularly used) by saying Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison,
we are mindful of who we are; yes, we are part of God's family, but we are never free to act as though His mercy is not our all in all in sustaining us. We call on Him to be our strength and source of all forgiveness. The Biblical truth that we need to always come to Him humbly as His children who need His mercy resonates if we only spend the time to think of the words that are said.
We then go on to sing a hymn called the Gloria.

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.

When I first heard this song, I was amazed by its depth of truth. So many elements of what occurs throughout the life Our Lord is encapsulated in this song. It begins with the prayers of Angels who celebrate his nativity, and goes on to call him the lamb of God, which is exactly what John the Baptist calls him. It then goes on to describe His glorious status in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father, asking him to receive our prayer. The closing part of the Gloria says why this is true--because He alone is God, the only one worthy of our adoration. When the rest of the world tells us to question his goodness, or whether someone else should be thanked, the Gloria puts our mind in the right place-on the glory of God. Again, there is so much biblical depth seen in all elements of the Mass.

When we continue this, we will cover how the reading of the Scriptures is treated, describe the homily (and answer why these sermons are so much shorter than those of the Protestant services), and discuss the Creed.

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